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HCPC role in social work thrown into doubt as Narey recommends College takeover

The future of social work regulation in England has been thrown in doubt after a major report recommended a potential role for The College of Social Work in registering individual social workers.

Sir Martin Narey’s used his government commissioned report into the future of children’s social work training, 'Making the Education of Social Workers Consistently Effective', to criticise the way both TCSW and the current regulator, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), currently scrutinise higher education courses and to suggest that The College might take on the regulation of both university courses and individual registration.

“I question the utility, including the value for money, of HCPC involvement either in the registration and regulation of social workers, or in the approval of social work degree courses,” Mr Narey said.

The HCPC rejected the suggestion that it was failing to adequately assess the quality of higher education provision. Marc Seale, HCPC Chief Executive, said: "We are confident that our standards and processes are fit for purpose and complement existing mechanisms for the delivery of health and social care education. We have worked closely with the social work community to develop these.

"The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA) has audited our processes for many years and has found no evidence to suggest any failure in our ability to deliver our statutory obligations.  Specifically, in its most recent review of our regulatory activities, the PSA described us as an ‘efficient and effective regulator."

BASW Chief Executive Bridget Robb said she was “shocked” by the suggestion that TCSW should take over regulation. “BASW has always been committed to the idea that regulation is a matter of public protection. It is not self-regulation by the profession so, in principle, we don’t think that’s a good idea.

“Such a change would only be remotely possible with big changes to TCSW’s current model, since it currently purports to speak for the profession and to act as a form of membership organisation, not as a registration body. They are two different things.

“Also, The College has no record or proven ability to govern, so it seems bizarre to suggest that they are in the position to take on this crucial role. It comes across as a reward for failure.”

Mr Narey’s report, published on 12 February, will now be considered by ministers ahead of any concrete proposals for reform. However, Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove did indicate a willingness to review regulatory arrangements.

In a written response Mr Gove said: “The cluttered landscape of standards and university endorsement criteria should be cleared, and the criteria sharpened. We shall consider Sir Martin’s recommendations for a single body to approve and audit children’s social work training; and further consider how to strengthen regulation of the profession.”

Mr Narey continued his theme of an enhanced role for the College in a Twitter contribution the day after publishing his report. He tweeted: “Best bit of yesterday was excellent mtg with @CollegeofSW Board. They know I want to see them at centre of profession. Many thanks Jo Cleary.” Ms Cleary is TCSW Chair.

Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for Children, joined in the positivity. Five years after the convictions in the case of Baby Peter Connelly, four years since the publication of Professor Eileen Munro’s report into the barriers to good child protection social work practice and three years since the initial development of a nascent college, Ms Trowler that indicated solutions might again be to hand. She tweeted: “Lots of people making contact to say feels like SW reform is on the move again. Excellent week.”

See Narey report in full

Read Narey's 18 recommendations